When the flowers blossom, the bees will come, they say. Well, we all surely hope so. But we need to provide a healthy habitat for them too. We have planted a lot of lavender (at least 5 types), and with our recent Provence inspiration, we have even more cuttings developing in the greenhouse. In between our vines and edible forest we have also planted bee-friendly plants. A lot of the beneficial companion plants that we have planted are bee-attracting, like comfrey, calendula, borage, Echinacea, tea tree (3 types), grevilleas (about 6 types – many of these are autumn flowering), geraniums, sage (four types), bottlebrush and many more. All the open areas and paths at Dreamland are thickly inter-sowed with clover too. For water they have the pond and two shallow bird baths.
The fact that we constantly have bees buzzing around makes me think we are doing OK in creating a good bee-friendly habitat. (Sure, I know you can always improve, and we will as we go on.) But now we want to focus on getting some honey. As mr Holmgren says, we need to “obtain a yield” too. Especially considering that we don’t use any refined sugar, our honey and pure maple syrup consumption is sky high. After all, our children are sweet-toothed too, like any child of that age, even though they are on a healthy natural organic diet. So instead of buying in more buckets of local honey, we need to start producing it ourselves. So part of my errands on that rainy misty day was to get our beehives.
Up to now I have been consulting with Sam from Geelong Honey Source and he has been amazingly helpful. But Sam supplies compressed polystyrene beehives and although I appreciate the better insulation for our cold winters and harsh warm summers, I still can’t get my head around letting bees live and work in compressed Styrofoam. (I know I shouldn’t down-talk something I haven’t investigated thoroughly, but that’s what the connection in my brain calls it.) So natural wood it would be for our bees.
So a bit of a search on the Geelong Beekeepers Club Inc website led me to the Beehive Company right here in Lara. A few discussions and messages exchanged with John Webb and we were all set. A late afternoon drive through the acreages on the other side of Lara as the sun started breaking through got me to John’s place. What amazing free-range chicken holdings there are out there; John himself has got quite a few going too. Anyway, so I got our two hives with two boxes each, queen dividers, suit, gloves, smoker and hive tool. Not a cheap hobby this beekeeping, and we don’t even have the equipment to spin the honey out yet! But you know what I forgot? Yes, I forgot to take photos of John and his setup. Maybe I’m just too shy to ask, but in this case I think I was just too preoccupied by all we have to learn about beekeeping. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Life’s funny, but I guess that happens in any country. Here we can keep 48 “fowl”, noisy cocks included, under whatever circumstances we want, with no questions asked, but our two hives sitting quietly along the fence must be registered, inspected regularly and we have to fill in a pile of paperwork like clockwork. Beekeeping is way more formalised and controlled. So on said rainy day we were also registered as registered beekeepers.
OK I’m side-tracking now, but is that why the Geelong Beekeepers Club Inc is registered as an Inc.? I quote from smallbusiness.chron.com: “Inc. is the abbreviation for incorporated. An incorporated company, or corporation, is a separate legal entity from the person or people forming it. Directors and officers purchase shares in the business and have responsibility for its operation. Incorporation limits an individual’s liability in case of a lawsuit.” I know honey is valuable, but purchase shares in a beekeeping club? Or is it about the liability in case someone gets stung by a bee? Surely you take responsibility for your own actions?
Well, one thing I’ll tell you, even though it’s more controlled, it’s way, way easier to get bees and bee supplies in this area than heritage breed chickens. I won’t even start talking about the run-around I had on that rainy day to try and locate a heat lamp for our brooder… and 20 of the 24 eggs are scheduled to hatch on a cold and rainy day (more rain, yay!) while I’m away on a course next week. O, I did start talking about it… well, more about the birds and bees in subsequent posts.